HADDONFIELD – There will be more tears for Ryan Foley.
The Haddonfield Memorial High School senior will feel anger and sorrow and pain in the coming days as he and his companions on the Bulldawgs’ lacrosse team mourn the loss of assistant coach Andrew Husenica, who passed away suddenly on Tuesday.
However, on Thursday, he had a reason to be thankful.
The Haddonfield football team united around Foley, Johnny Mink and others in the program that played for Husenica in the spring. They offered their support, they offered their shoulders to cry on and they came together to create a moment in Husenica’s memory as they took down rival Haddon Heights 45-18 to bring home The Mayor’s Trophy back home on Thanksgiving.
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“He was my goalie coach since eighth grade when I started,” Foley said. “… He’s meant a lot to me and really made an impact on our lives. We played this game for him.”
Foley donned a purple shirt under his jersey that read “HUSE LAX,” with an orange silhouette of Husenica’s bearded face. He desperately wanted to show it off after he scored his first varsity touchdown in the third quarter. He wanted to go to the crease where he and Husenica worked together for years and honor him, but didn’t to avoid a penalty flag.
Instead, he went over to his sideline and was embraced by the entire program.
“It was a lot of emotion toward me,” Foley said. “All my coaches, all my boys, I started choking up, tearing up a bit, and immediately all my boys started hugging me. I did that for him. That’s a great moment for me, that’s a moment I’ll remember for all my life.”
Mink texted DeLano Wednesday night to ask him if players could write “HUSE” on their athletic tape to honor Husenica, and DeLano offered his full support.
“We talk about it all the time as a team, our coaches all played together and we all know 30 years from now, if one of us is down, any single one of us will be there,” Mink said. “They could call us in a millisecond, and we’d help ’em out. It’s a family that’s built through all the years we’ve spent in the program.”
It’s what DeLano has strived to build during his 21-year tenure leading the program.
“You’ve got to have something,” he said. “Whether that’s athletics, band, you got to have that sense of purpose and belonging where you feel free to cry, laugh, whatever it is. Our avenue today was football. … I think we had that opportunity to kind of honor him and play hard, play with purpose, play with pride and play with passion, and there’s no doubt that’s what our kids did today.”
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And Husenica’s former players couldn’t be more grateful.
“It’s just the first step in recovering from this tragedy,” Mink said. “It’s going to help me the rest of the day, the rest of the week, but (Husenica’s loss) will always be there. It’s something me and Ryan will always be sad about, but we’ll always be there for each other.”
DeLano fights for Thanksgiving football
The Thanksgiving gridiron tradition is dying around the state with historic rivalries moving up in the calendar to leave the end of the season solely for playoffs.
However, DeLano doesn’t plan to give up Turkey Day football without a fight.
“I believe in the power of where we came from and who and what we represent,” DeLano said. “We believe in that.”
DeLano gestured to the bleachers where both communities filled every seat, and others spilled out onto the track just to catch a view of the game.
“You think this is happening in Week 2? It’s not,” DeLano said. “It’s a time where people get a chance to come home, take a look at their alma mater, put T-shirts on, come see everybody for the first time.”
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DeLano understands times change, and there may come a point where the rivalry gets moved, but he doesn’t want it. He doesn’t care if the Bulldawgs are chasing a state championship or not. He wants to be on the field on Thanksgiving morning with his kids.
As he told his players in the postgame huddle, “We’re going to kick and scream to hang on to this tradition.”
By the numbers
113 – Games in the Haddonfield-Haddon Heights rivalry, which dates back to 1902. The Bulldawgs lead the series 64-43-6.
96 – Pounds Haddonfield senior running back Chris Carr weighed when he joined the program. He delighted his teammates when he scored his second varsity touchdown, a 24-yard scamper with 9:09 left in the third quarter to put his team up 31-6.
“He didn’t think he’d ever play varsity,” Mink said, “and he has lit it up for us this year. He’s an amazing player.”
1 – Career varsity touchdowns for seniors Foley and Mink. They both got those scores Thursday. Foley on a 16-yard reception from Declan McCarthy on the drive following Carr’s score, and Mink on a 2-yard plunge in the fourth.
“It’s just a blessing,” Mink said.
3 – Touchdown passes for quarterback Declan McCarthy, one each to Chris Clax, Patrick Ryan and Foley. He finished 11-of-16 for 179 yards.
139 – Rushing yards for Dominic Hahn in the victory. He also scored a 60-yard TD.
171 – Receiving yards for Haddon Heights’ Matt Iuvara in defeat. He made multiple big plays down the field and finished with 9 receptions, including a 29-yard score.
2 – TD runs by Garnets quarterback Andrew Harris.
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Hahn – Carried the offense early as the Haddons built a comfortable 24-6 halftime advantage.
McCarthy – Managed the game beautifully after a tough go against Gloucester in the sectional semis.
Iuvara – Drew double coverage throughout the game yet still was a big-play threat.
“I didn’t really understand the impact and significance of this game until last year when we lost it. Although we won a (sectional) championship last year, it always still lingers in my mind that we lost that game (to Haddon Heights). We had to come back. I don’t know what I would’ve done if we lost this trophy and it wasn’t back home.”
– Haddonfield senior Ryan Foley
Josh Friedman has produced award-winning South Jersey sports coverage for the Courier Post, The Daily Journal and the Burlington County Times for more than a decade. If you have or know of an interesting story to tell, reach out on Twitter at @JFriedman57 or via email at email@example.com. You can also contact him at 856-486-2431. Help support local journalism with a subscription.